The Boy Scouts of America has drawn praise for upholding a policy of prohibiting openly homosexual leaders and members, in order to align with its founding principles and respect the role of parents in educating their own children.

"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," said Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive.

On July 17, the Boy Scouts announced that it would continue its long-standing policy of banning "open or avowed homosexuals" in order to support the group's values, avoid distractions from its mission and respect parental rights.

The decision came after a two-year evaluation of the policy, which determined that upholding the current membership rule would allow the Boy Scouts "to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth."   

The group explained in a statement that it "does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members."

However, it added, "we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission" of the organization.

The statement has drawn criticism from gay advocacy groups who claim that the Boy Scouts are discriminating.

However, family rights groups have been quick to applaud the move, arguing that the organization should not be forced to adopt the views of others.

Rob Schwarzwalder, senior vice president of the Family Research Council said that he was "grateful" for the announcement.

Rather than a discriminatory move, the organization is simply "upholding the moral standards on which it was founded," he explained.

The group's moral foundation can be observed in the Boy Scouts' promise to do their duty "to God" and in the fact that nearly 70 percent of Scout troops are chartered by religious institutions, he said.

Author and speaker Rebecca Hagelin, whose work deals with the role of parents and families in society, said that the Boy Scouts' decision reflects "timeless moral values" and a "common-sense view" on parenting.

In a July 22 opinion article in the Washington Times, Hagelin explained that the policy allows parents "to address the subject of homosexuality with their own children, from their own perspective, on their own time, and in the context of their own religious beliefs and family values."

She noted that the Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts' policy on homosexuality in 2000, ruling that the group could not be forced to grant membership to individuals whose conduct and views directly violate its principles.

Requiring the organization to change its policy would only lead to more "in-your-face promotion of homosexual conduct to our children," Hagelin said.

She warned that trying to force the Boy Scouts to accept members who violate its principles is an attempt by gay advocacy groups to impose their values on the Boy Scouts organization.

"And they are not entitled to use private platforms – including the Boy Scouts – to promote or rationalize away their behavior," she said.